Physical therapy can help improve function and quality of life in people with fibromyalgia. A physical therapist will focus on your physical challenges and find appropriate exercises and achievable goals. Your therapist will carefully tailor a program to your specific abilities and needs.
Pain, stiffness, and fatigue lead many people with fibromyalgia to give up on physical activity and become increasingly sedentary. However, lack of physical activity can contribute to depression, poor sleep quality, and the development of other conditions such as osteoporosis and obesity.
What does it involve?
Even one to three sessions with a physical therapist may improve mobility and find strategies to work around physical challenges. At your first visit with a physical therapist, they will carefully assess your condition and interview you about your fibromyalgia symptoms and medications. The therapist may test your strength or range of motion. They will help you prioritize which problems you want to work on during sessions. A good therapist will encourage you to challenge yourself while respecting your comfort levels.
Your physical therapist will teach you different exercises you can do on your own at home. Which exercises you do with your therapist will depend entirely on your condition and your goals. Exercises may include stretching, strengthening and conditioning movements.
Another helpful component of physical therapy is education. The therapist will teach you strategies for coping with fibromyalgia symptoms that will help you avoid problems and remain active. Your physical therapist may teach you how to improve your posture, allowing your muscles to function more efficiently, or introduce you to using massage or heat and cold to help you feel better.
It is important not to become discouraged early on in therapy. Focus on slow, gradual progress toward goals.
The two main goals of physical therapy in people with fibromyalgia are to ease pain and improve function.
A 2000 article reviewed studies on physical therapy as a treatment for fibromyalgia. The researchers concluded that physical therapy can reduce pain, improve posture and muscle function, strengthen muscles, and reduce fatigue.
Most types of insurance will only pay for a limited number of physical therapy appointments.
Some fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain and stiffness, can make it difficult to stay motivated to keep up with physical therapy exercises. Side effects of medication can also interfere.
Depending on where you live and your level of disability, it may be hard to travel to physical therapy visits.